Why am I making a claim with my insurance company?

When handling automobile accident cases in Maryland, and even more so the cases I handle in and around Elkton, Maryland, I am often asked by my clients why we would be making a claim with their insurance company. Understandably, many of my clients are apprehensive about this, confused, or otherwise gun shy about calling their insurance company for anything. What a great fear that has been created by insurance companies and media that making a claim of any kind will make your rates skyrocket!

In some instances, claims against your policy can and will make your rates go up. In many instances, however, they will not and can not. One example of a claim that we often file for our clients in their cases is a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Claim. PIP is a no-fault type benefit that is on your policy, and is in place to protect you if you are in any accident of any kind and are injured and/or lose time from work. I try not to bore my readers to death with citations of law on this blog, but since this is such a sensitive topic, I feel the need to provide at least one link to where the Maryland Annotated Code actually says what I say it says. Check out § 19-507(c) of the Maryland Insurance Article, which states:

“An insurer that issues a policy that contains the coverage described in § 19-505 of this subtitle may not impose a surcharge for a claim or payment made under that coverage and, at the time the policy is issued, shall notify the policyholder in writing that a surcharge may not be imposed for a claim or payment made under that coverage.”

Scared to file a claim with your insurance company? Contact Bowers Law to find out when and how you may want to do this for your Maryland Accident Case.
Scared to file a claim with your insurance company? Contact Bowers Law to find out when and how you may want to do this for your Maryland Accident Case.

This is the law in Maryland. If you’re making a PIP claim, your insurance company cannot raise you to a different risk tier or issue a surcharge. Reading the entire subtitle of section c you will see that the insurance company must also notify you in writing that they can not and will not do this to you. If you read your insurance policy, you’ll find a line in there that tells you this. It’s probably somewhere around page 23 or 24. (I made that page number thing up, but if I happen to be right, let me know and we’ll share a laugh).

There are other scenarios in which filing a claim with your insurance company can be beneficial to you. These come in situations such as hit & run accidents, or otherwise in scenarios where you lack information on the other party or parties involved in the claim. I’ll be sure to write on these topics throughout the coming weeks, so check back for more information about when it’s OK to make a claim with your own insurance company.

Of course, if you’ve been injured in an accident, call my office immediately at 410-885-6200 to discuss the options you may have and recoveries you may be entitled to. We’re available to answer questions whether you’re a client or not. Even if you don’t have a case we’d take on, I’d be honored to give you a few minutes of my time to discuss your situation, your insurance, and anything else that may be on your mind.

Painting the picture out of puzzle pieces

In a previous post I mentioned the work that my office and I do to assist clients who were recently charged with crimes was like painting a picture for the State when previously all that exists otherwise are puzzle pieces. When the State is assigned a case, and when that specific Assistant State’s Attorney assigned to a case gets it, they’re also getting a large pile of other cases. With this obligation comes somewhat limited resources in their ability to track down all of the evidence and investigation for each case.

In many cases that my office handles, the charges were levied based on limited information at the time. The police have an obligation to protect the community against danger and potential danger. Sometimes this obligates them to charge someone with a crime on suspicion or mere probable cause. There is nothing improper about this practice. The lower burden of proof to arrest and/or charge someone helps prevent future instances of crime or potential crime. There is a much higher burden of proof to actually convict someone of the crime. If the higher burden existed to arrest, there really wouldn’t be a need for the judicial system we know today. It wouldn’t be so trial focused, it would be far more appeal focused. The stoppage of an alleged action by charging serves the community to discontinue that act, in most instances.

What I do in my office for my clients is break down the situations that upon charging either don’t make sense, or do not actually rise to the level of a crime committed.

In a recent case, my client was charged with TA 16-303(c) for driving on a suspended license. At the time my client was pulled over, the MVA here in Maryland showed his license as being suspended. The officer did not have access to the back story or the details of how my client got to where he was at that point. That isn’t the officer’s job. The officer was proper, given the information available to him at the time, in issuing my client such a citation.

The story, however, was quite different once all of the details were filled in. In Maryland, charges such as the 16-303(c) citation require a degree of notice on the part of the driver with suspended privileges. In this case, there was a mix up with one of those fun speeding camera/traffic light tickets in another state. That citation was paid, but the notice that it was satisfied was not sent to Maryland’s record division, but to the issuing state. My client received notice that his license “would be suspended by a certain date” to which he promptly responded to the issuing state, and was under the impression that everything was resolved.

Then he got pulled over, and cited for a jail able offense, when as far as he knew he was in full compliance with the law. He was in full compliance, the error causing his suspension was merely clerical and administrative.

Painting a picture out of puzzle pieces

At the trial date my job became to paint the picture for the prosecutor handling the docket that day. The groundwork that had been done ahead of time, putting into place the proper timeline for how my client had followed the law, and had done everything properly, caused the State to drop all charges against my client. Other than the turmoil of having to deal with the process, me, and the system generally, my client is back where he was supposed to be from square one, without charges against him, and no fines, court costs or jail time.

 

Am I a “real lawyer” and what does that even mean?

In my practice of criminal law I often have clients ask me if I am a “real lawyer” or other similar questions that are aimed at determining whether or not I am a private lawyer or a public defender. These conversations usually happen in the hallways of the court, or in an actual courtroom by individuals who I do not represent. Clearly, if you’re sitting in my office you know I’m a private lawyer. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our public defenders, and often find myself defending the public defender’s office and its lawyers to clients who make disparaging remarks. I often do so by attempting to shift the focus that these prospective clients have on who they should be comparing someone like me to.

While comparison shopping is important, and when trying to make a decision between various options for counsel, it is certainly important to find out what each possible lawyer can and will do for you, but it’s also important to know who you are really up against. In conversations I have with clients and potential clients who attempt to compare me or other private lawyers to the public defender, I immediately correct them. The adversary in the equation of someone facing criminal charges in Maryland isn’t the public defender. At the point in which you’re looking into hiring counsel, it doesn’t matter any more how overworked the public defender’s office is, how new some of their lawyers might be, or anything like that.

The lawyer trying to put you in jail is in the State’s Attorney’s office.

The scenario I describe for these clients is somewhat simple. At the beginning of the day, on an imaginary morning two months from now, when your case is scheduled into trial, there are 2 stacks of files. There are the file’s on the prosecutor’s trial table, and the corresponding files on the defender’s table. Assume that on day one the public defender has all of those files. Eventually, and leading up to the trial date, private lawyers will be hired in lieu of the public defender. This practice makes the pile of files on the defender’s table decrease. This not only helps the accused who has opted for private counsel, but it also helps out the public defender and his or her clients who cannot afford private counsel. Less cases for the Public Defender creates more time to spend on each. What many of my clients lose sight of, and I work to refocus on, is the pile on the prosecutor’s table. This pile remains untouched. In Maryland there are no private prosecutors. No attorney like me or those in my office who will scoop up cases from the State and decrease their work load.

The advantage you get in hiring private counsel isn’t necessarily the comparison between us and the Public Defender. The real advantage is the fact that on an incredibly busy day, where I’ve worked with the court clerk to consolidate my dockets for efficiency, I will walk into court with 2 or 3 clients on a given docket. The prosecutor working for the State on that particular docket has my 2 or 3 cases, and likely has 15 or 20 more. In some jurisdictions as many as 60 cases in one docket!

Even on days in which I have worked with the clerk to consolidate some of my cases onto one docket, it is important to mention that the practice of consolidating dockets provides me more time in my office to work up, investigate, and research the cases that I do have.

Connecting the dots in your case

I often find myself driving significant results from putting the facts and law of my cases onto a platter for the State, in a way that benefits my client. If I have a case where the charging document is deficient for one reason or another, in which my client should “win” and otherwise get a great result, I work hard to bring this to the attention of the prosecutor as early as reasonable, and work out an agreement ahead of time. In most cases in which I successfully get the state to drop all charges against my client, I do so by painting a clear picture out of the puzzle that is most of these cases. I value the ability that I have to “do all the work” on a case for my client and at the same time for the State, when that work results in the case being dropped. My clients usually appreciate it, too!

Jobeth R. Bowers is the managing founder of Bowers Law, LLC, a Maryland Trial Practice focusing primarily on Maryland Criminal Defense matters and Automobile accident claims in Maryland. Offices are located in Elkton, Maryland and Baltimore City, Maryland. The office services clients throughout the state of Maryland in these matters as well as others.

 

Knowing what your accident case is worth

I wanted to discuss a variation on the common accident case value theme. This is, if you’ve been reading regularly, a fairly common theme with my posts as it is a common question that I get from my clients at many points throughout their claims. The main purpose of this particular post/article is to discuss the medical billing aspect of the process.

Myth: Many people are under the impression that your Maryland auto accident case is worth a multiplier of the total medical bills. That multiplier might be 2x or 3x or some 10x, but it’s a multiplier. This is entirely a myth. There is no hard and fast formula for determining the value of a Maryland auto accident case that fits nice and nearly into some variable type equation.

Each insurance company will use their own criteria to evaluate and make offers on cases, as will each judge or jury member weigh different aspects of testimony in determining a verdict, should a case go to trial and reach the verdict level.

The important thing to be aware of is whether or not the billing being submitted to the insurance carrier, judge or jury for consideration is the complete set of medical billing and/or records.

I receive a lot of litigation referrals from a number of law offices in Maryland. Sometimes, I also have clients who have fired a former attorney, or have had their case dropped, or for whatever reason have come to me after their case has been handled to some point by another lawyer or law office.

I recently took on one such case that was  handled by another firm, and for whatever reason the relationship between attorney and client broke down, and the client hired me. The entire file was forwarded to my office, and upon my review, I realized one major problem: A demand had been submitted to the insurance company, and was lacking no less than $6,000.00 in medical billing and the associated records to go along with that billing, and that’s just what I could determine in about 30 minutes of reviewing the file! Without a thought, the collection and submission of these bills would increase the previous offer by at least 20%. That’s a big number. That number is so big that it would almost offset the entire lawyer’s fees in the case!

The moral of the story is to be sure that a case being submitted to an insurance company, judge or jury for settlement is complete. This can be a daunting task for someone trying to handle a claim on their own, and clearly a difficult task for some that handle these cases professionally.

If you’re looking to have your case or an offer from an insurance company reviewed by someone with experience, contact me at (410) 885-6200. I will no review your settlement if you are represented by an attorney, as that wouldn’t be appropriate, but if you’re attempting to handle a claim on your own, I’ll gladly give you some of my time to take a look, and with no obligation discuss how I might be able to help you maximize the value of your claim.